A Failure to Commit

Lately I’ve been thinking about commitment. It started with a discussion in my bible study group. As we talked about church discipline, we realized how seldom it happens these days. Rather than accept discipline (which admittedly is not pleasant at the time), people simply change congregations. It’s easier to move on to a community that doesn’t know about the sin or doesn’t care about it.

At the same time, I’ve been reading a book by John Ortberg which I’ll review in a later post. It’s about relationships, and in one of the chapters, he deals with commitment, especially commitment to our marriage and to friends. Many people don’t want to get married any longer. Younger people tell me, “Why bother? It won’t make my partner any more willing to stay with me.” High divorce rates have eroded our trust in this important covenant. Many people don’t have deep or lasting friendships, either. Friendship is measured by the number of followers we can attract on our social media accounts. It doesn’t involve face-to-face interaction, and those who dare to disagree with us can easily be “ghosted.”

Finally, I spent some time talking with a lady at church on Sunday. She bemoaned the fact that the community service ministry she was part of seemed to be dying out. The volunteers are all older and soon won’t be able to do the work. People just don’t care to get involved. They have no connection to their neighbors, or the community at large.

God doesn’t want us to live an uncommitted life. In the book of Genesis, He says:

“It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Genesis 2:18

Marriage is meant to be deep and enduring. Over time, we become “one flesh.” Friendships are also important. In interacting with others, we grow in wisdom and understanding. “Just as iron sharpens iron, friends sharpen the minds of each other.” Proverbs 27:17. The congregation is described as a body, the body of Christ. When we walk away, we damage not only ourselves, but also Jesus and His mission on earth.

Commitment is not easy. It involves enduring through seasons of dryness. It means continuing to love people when we don’t agree. It requires us be vulnerable and admit our failures. However, in the long term the rewards are great.

“Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 3:3

For more posts about marriage and friendship see:

The Marriage Challenge – A Book Review

Spiritual Friendship — What is it?

Friendship Promises – Book Review

God Loves the Animals by Jan & Mike Berenstain–Book Review

This sturdy board book brings back fond memories for me — my daughters loved the Berenstain Bears books, and we read many of them together. In this story the little bears and their parents take a nature walk. Along the way they observe many animals in their natural habitat, and marvel at how God provided them with a place to live and food to eat.

The illustrations are bright and colorful, and young children will enjoy pointing out their favorite animal. Names of the animals are printed in bold to help beginning readers learn new words.

“God made the wild animals according to their kinds, and all the creatures that moved along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:25

In case you are wondering this Berenstain Bears book is part of the Living Lights series published by Zonderkidz. Mike Berenstain, son of Stan and Jan Berenstain is a Christian, although he reports being raised in a secular household.

VERDICT: 5 STARS.

For more books for children see these posts:

Flashlight Night by Elisabeth Hasselbeck–Book Review

The Edge of Everywhen by A.S. Mackey–Book Review

This Little Light of Mine by Kathleen Long Bostrom

2=1

If you follow my blog, you may already know that I am fascinated by the brain. I’m currently reading a book called “The Grieving Brain” which describes what we know about how the brain functions during loss–particularly the loss of a person with whom we have been very close, like a spouse.

I think it’s a well-accepted scientific fact that humans are social creatures. Even as infants, we form strong attachments to those who love and care for us. If we turn to the book of Genesis, we read:

“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.'” Genesis 2:18

One researcher mentioned in the book describes the degree of closeness in human relationship through the use of two circles. At the beginning of the range, the circles barely touch, by the end the circles practically overlap. In this case, two circles have become virtually one. This, again, is exactly what we find described in Genesis.

“Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24

Small wonder that with this level of closeness, the loss of a partner causes pain that can be described as an amputation. The brain continues, on an unconscious level, to believe the loved one is alive, and simply out of sight (of course, as Christians, we believe that this is not only how we feel, it is most certainly true!).

The author goes on to say that:

“The brain’s ability to create and maintain bonds is magnificent. Certain hormones are released during specific activities like sex or giving birth or nursing.”

also:

“Our brain is doing everything in its power to keep us united with the ones we love. These powerful tools include hormones, neural connections, and genetics …”

Isn’t it wonderful and amazing? The Bible and science tell the same story. Two are meant to become one. Our brain fights against loss — and that would include divorce. We are intended to be together for life — and beyond.

 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate. “Matthew 19:6

For more about marriage see these posts:

In Marriage Relationships #2

Marriage: A School for Forgiveness

Give Thanks for Marriage

Let There Be Light by Archbishop Desmond Tutu–Book Review

This book beautifully illustrates the seven days of creation described in the book of Genesis. Kudos to artist Nancy Tillman! Paired with the poetic words of Archbishop Tutu, it is a delight to the senses. Preschoolers will be fascinated by the bright colors and realistic animals. It emphasizes the love is part of everything God creates.

The text is personally expressive, but completely biblical. There is an inscription page which makes it perfect for gifting, which includes this verse:

“Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.”

VERDICT: 5 STARS. Beautiful and biblical.

For more Christian books for children see:

Birds of the Air by S.E.M. Ishida

David and Goliath–Book Review

The Princess and the Three Knights by Karen Kingsbury–Book Review

50 Years and Counting

Last month my husband and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. It’s a milestone reached by only about 5% of couples. To attain it, you must marry fairly young, and then survive both death and divorce. If you do, you earn the luxury of looking back on many memories and lots of challenges you’ve navigated together. You’ll learn to lean on God a lot. Staying together isn’t always easy, but in the long run, there is a sense of accomplishment.

This month I’ve found myself reading, ironically, a memoir entitled Heartbreak written by science journalist Florence Williams. In it, she records her experience of divorce after a long marriage (25 years). During the three years after the breakup of her marriage, she traveled across the U.S. and also to England and Croatia to meet with researchers, therapists and others in order to understand the effects of losing a mate. Guess what? The consensus is divorce is bad for your health. It wreaks havoc on brains and bodies. Among the documented effects are poor sleep, increased anxiety, and a weakened immune system. Many people show symptoms similar to PTSD. It can even affect your heart (yes, really!) and cause early death. Of course, these same symptoms may surface upon the death of a mate, but data about the health effects of being single, widowed or divorced, show that the effects of divorce are the most damaging. One health study calls it, “a costly life event.”

On the other hand, scores of studies show that married people live longer, have fewer instances of cancer, strokes and heart attacks, and are less likely to become depressed or overweight.

As Christians, we should not be surprised. After all, in the book of Genesis God says:

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18

Adam, when presented with Eve, calls her:

“…bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh…” Genesis 2:23

In marriage, according to the Bible, we become “one flesh.” No wonder divorce feels like an amputation — it is!

I know there are reasons that our sinful nature sometimes makes divorce the only option. Addiction or abuse spring to mind. Still, if we know what’s good for us, we should do what we can to stay together.

So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Matthew 19:6

For more posts about marriage see:

The Marriage Challenge – A Book Review

In Marriage Relationships

Give Thanks for Marriage

What Stands Out –the Book of Genesis

In my last post, I wrote about the importance of supporting God’s house, the church. This verse reminds me that God although we meet God during corporate worship, He’s not limited to any place or building.

“Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” Genesis 28:16b

After Jacob cheats his brother Esau out of his birthright and blessing, he flees to Haran to escape his wrath. That evening, he has a dream in which he sees a staircase to heaven, and he experiences the presence of God. God is with us every day as well. How have you seen God this week? It might be a good question to ask oneself on a regular basis.

Maybe you saw God in another person — someone who helped you, or someone who loves you. Maybe you saw God in nature — a beautiful sunset or a powerful storm. Maybe you met God during a time of private reading and devotion. Maybe you felt God touch your heart during prayer. God is everywhere, all the time, but like Jacob, we’re caught up in our own “stuff” (it’s usually not good stuff, either) and we fail to notice Him.

So take a page from those old Dick and Jane readers some us used back in elementary school –Look! Look! Look! God never forsakes us, and He’s with you right now if you just take the time to really see.

For more about the presence of God see these posts:

Have You Seen Jesus?

Divine Blessing and the Fullness of Life in the Presence of God by William R. Osborne–Book Review

Surely the Presence of the Lord is in this Place

On the Wings of a Dove

The quote in my last post reminded me of this country gospel song, Wings of a Dove. It was written by Robert Bruce Ferguson in 1958. Two years later, pioneering country music entertainer in the 50’s, Ferlin Husky, took country music onto the pop chart with his recording of the song. It is based on the Biblical story Noah’s Ark, particularly the passage Genesis 8:6-12. After 40 days adrift on the flooded earth, Noah sent out a dove to find out if the water had dried up from the land. After a couple attempts, the dove returned with an olive leaf in its mouth, so Noah knew the water had begun to recede from the earth. The image of the dove carrying an olive branch became an enduring symbol of peace in Christian art.

In other areas of scripture, the dove also represents the Holy Spirit. Matthew 3:16, Luke 3:22, and John 1:32-33 recount Jesus’ baptism at the Jordan River. After Jesus prays, heaven opens and the Holy Spirit comes down in the form of a dove. The moment is linked to God the Father’s love as a voice from above says, “You are my Son, whom I love, and I am very pleased with you.

It’s a wonderful song to listen to during challenging times, a reminder that God is with us, and His plans for us will prevail.

For more gospel music see these quotes:

Just a Little Talk With Jesus

God’s Coloring Book

This Little Light of Mine

Two Are Better Than One

The phrase that stands out for me in Chapter 4 of Ecclesiastes is “two are better than one.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9.  To get the entire idea you must read further:

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Of course, this is a section of Scripture often read at marriages.  Having just celebrated my 49th anniversary, I certainly agree that life has been better with a companion to walk and stand with me, to help me up when I feel weak or discouraged.

However, I think it also appeals to me because teamwork is one of my core values (see L. A. T. C. H. On To Your Core Values). I’ve seen T-E-A-M used as an acronym to say “together everyone accomplishes more.”  I truly enjoy working with a group, and  I’ve completed projects with other people that I would never have considered doing on my own.  Genesis tells us:

“The LORD God also said, “It is not good for the man to be alone….”Genesis 2:18

We were created to be in relationship with others — and with God!  That’s the reason “a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  God strengthens any relationship He joins.  In fact, without God, our ties to one another quickly fall apart.  Only with God’s help can we remain forgiving, self-sacrificing, and loving.

If you have a spouse, a dear friend, a helpful co-worker, a cherished sibling, give thanks!  Two are always better than one!

For more on the book of Ecclesiastes see:

A Time to Die

Hoping for Something New?

God Moments in Ecclesiastes

 

God is at Work

The gospel reading recently in church was from the story of Joseph and his brothers, in the book of Genesis.  The brothers are afraid that once their father dies, Joseph, remembering how they sold him into slavery in Egypt, will take revenge.  They go to him humbly apologizing.  Here is his response:

“…. ‘Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”  Genesis 50:19-20

Each week in Sunday School, after I’ve completed our opening prayer, I ask the class “how have you seen God at work this week?”  Usually the answers involve things like the beauty in nature, someone who has recovered from an illness, a word of encouragement, or a need that was met.  One person called them “mini-miracles.”  It’s wonderful to notice and give thanks for these.  However, it’s also important to realize that God is at work even when things are not going well.  Consider the case of Joseph, mentioned in the gospel reading above.  He was treated badly by his brothers, he endured slavery and prison.  Things looked bleak.  Yet, God was at work.  Through difficulties that seemed undeserved, He positioned Joseph to save his family.

There are other examples in the Bible.  The Israelites wander in the wilderness for 40 years — but through that experience, they draw closer to God.  Naomi and Ruth are left widowed and destitute — but through God’s provision, Ruth remarries and becomes an ancestress of Jesus. Jesus dies on the cross — but in so doing, atones for our sins and reconciles us with the Father.

Many of us are going through difficult times right now.  Some has lost jobs or incomes;  churches can’t meet in the accustomed way;  many have become isolated, anxious and depressed.  Yet God is at work.  From our limited viewpoint, things are bad, but God is not limited and His plans are good.  Take heart.  The best is yet to come.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28

 

What is Enough?

I was recently watching a television program about therapy. A therapist was counseling a married couple. He told them that he observed that their relationship had started with a great deal of passion, and that they were still passionate people. However, passion was not enough to sustain a lifelong relationship. “What is enough?” inquired the wife. The therapist’s reply– “I don’t know.”

I’m not trained in this field, but I do know the answer to the question:  God.  God is the component that makes it possible for two flawed and sinful human beings to remain faithful to one another for life.  Listen to these words from Ecclesiastes:

” Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

In case you haven’t thought about it, the third strand in the cord is God.  God did not mean for us to be alone.  In Genesis we read:

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”  Genesis 2:18

The helper God gave Adam was needed to complete him–to make him whole.  Adam acknowledges this saying,

“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:23-24

When something becomes part of your very being, it is not meant to be removed.  Parting is an amputation of sorts.  This kind of relationship was possible for Adam and Eve because their relationship with one another started with and was based upon their relationship with God.  Sin changed things, but the foundation remains.  To love one another, we must love God and ground ourselves in Him.  That’s the way it can last.  That’s enough.

For more on marriage see these posts:

Thanks for Husbands!

Marriage: A School for Forgiveness

In Marriage Relationships